BlandsLaw - Blog posts from employee benefits
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Timing Critical in Adverse Action against Pregnant Employee

A recent decision by the Federal Circuit Court[1] acts as a reminder for employers to think twice about timing when implementing redundancies.

In this case, the employee had been working for BOC Pty Ltd for almost 2 years when she became pregnant. Upon agreement with her general manager, the employee was scheduled to commence her maternity leave on the 6th of November 2015. The company subsequently decided that she would be one of 8 employees nationally that would be made redundant as part of a business restructure.

All redundancies were scheduled to occur on 12th November, however the employee’s termination date was brought forward to 6 November, two days before she was due to start her leave. The company alleged that this decision was made with her best interests in mind so that she would not be required to come back to work to be informed of the changes whilst she was on leave.

The employee claimed that she was discriminated against by being chosen because she was

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The importance of drafting clear Employment Contracts

A recent case heard by the FWC[1] highlights the problems that follow when employment contracts are poorly drafted. Next Residential Pty Ltd, a building company in Perth, attempted to trade off award provisions by paying a higher annualised salary but got itself into legal trouble when it failed to identify the applicable award or specific provisions it ousted.

A former employee claimed that her employer owed her $29,000 for overtime and lunch breaks worked as directed. However, her employer insisted that she had no entitlement to this as she was paid an annualised salary in accordance with her employment contract. Furthermore, her employer denied that it directed the employee to work overtime or through her lunchbreak and maintained that any additional hours worked by the employee were set off against early finishes, late starts and half days worked.

The employee’s contract stated that her salary was "inclusive of any award provisions/entitlement that may be payable under an award". The FWC found that the contract failed to identify the applicable

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Calculating Redundancy Pay: Do previous casual hours count?

A full bench of the FWC has handed down a landmark decision which has changed the previously accepted interpretation of ‘service’ under the FWA and, in effect, turned upside-down the way in which redundancy payments are usually calculated.

Following the decision in AMWU v Donau[1], a permanent employee’s initial period of regular and systematic casual employment with the same employer will now count towards their period of continuous service used to calculate redundancy pay. Whilst many employees will be rejoicing with this news, the decision holds considerable and far-reaching ramifications for employers who will have to pay the price.

The case involved Donau, a Newcastle engineering and ship-building company, who commenced a large scale redundancy process. Initially, the company did not include prior continuous service by casuals in their redundancy pay calculations. The AMWU argued that this was in breach of their enterprise agreement, which specified that redundancy pay is to be calculated according to periods of continuous employment. The dispute then turned its discussion towards the definition of

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A recent Federal Circuit Court case* found that both the employer and the HR Manager had contravened the Fair Work Act (FWA) with the effect that both may face penalties for the contravention.

The case involved an employee who worked in a South Australian plant of a large glass bottle manufacturer. The employee sustained a shoulder injury at work. Following a significant period of time involving workers compensation and rehabilitation, the employer and the employee entered into a new contract. The new contract was for a modified role taking into account the employee’s limitations resulting from the injury. Nearly a year and a half after this arrangement was put in place the employer was advised by WorkCover SA that they no longer needed to provide alternative arrangements for the employee. The employer, through the HR manager, provided the employee with a termination letter and failed to pay out the full notice the employee would have been entitled to under the FWA.

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Workplace investigations can be an important and useful tool. When used in the right situations and conducted appropriately a workplace investigation can resolve a range of issues including bullying and harassment complaints. A recent case, however, has highlighted the ramifications that may occur when an investigation is not conducted properly.

In Romero v Farstad Shipping (Indian Pacific) Pty Ltd[1] a shipping officer sent an email to her superiors alleging bullying by her ship’s captain during a 12 day sea voyage. In addition to Romero’s bullying allegations, the captain separately raised issues of competency in relation to Romero.

The employer, Farstad, proceeded to investigate the issues although failed to follow their own internal policy and the processes outlined within in. Specifically, Romero’s bullying complaint was investigated as a formal complaint although it had not been formally lodged as a complaint and this had not been the intention of Romero’s email. Added to this, the captain was interviewed before Romero (the complainant) about the alleged bullying and the issues of competency

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The Federal Circuit Court has recently found a sole director responsible for the underpayment of a long-term employee in Scotto v Scala Bros Pty Ltd & Anor [2014] FCCA 2374.

The employee worked for the delicatessen/ café for nearly 30 years and his claims included the failure of the employer to pay the minimum wage, allowances and overtime; failure to provide payslips and failure to make superannuation contributions throughout this time period.

The employee also alleged that his former employer did not pay out his accrued entitlements when his employment ended in 2010. The total amount claimed was just over $1.5 million plus civil penalties for non-compliance with the legal requirements. The case was brought against both Scala Bros as the employer and against the sole director personally in her capacity as director and manager of the business.

Wading through a messy tangle of facts and complicated family issues, Judge Cameron accepted the validity of a number of the claims although noted that some of the older claims could no

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Workplace investigations can be an important and useful tool. When used in the right situations and conducted appropriately a workplace investigation can resolve a range of issues including bullying and harassment complaints. A recent case, however, has highlighted the ramifications that may occur when an investigation is not conducted properly.

In Romero v Farstad Shipping (Indian Pacific) Pty Ltd[1] a shipping officer sent an email to her superiors alleging bullying by her ship’s captain during a 12 day sea voyage. In addition to Romero’s bullying allegations, the captain separately raised issues of competency in relation to Romero.

The employer, Farstad, proceeded to investigate the issues although failed to follow their own internal policy and the processes outlined within in. Specifically, Romero’s bullying complaint was investigated as a formal complaint although it had not been formally lodged as a complaint and this had not been the intention of Romero’s email. Added to this, the captain was interviewed before Romero (the complainant) about the alleged bullying and the issues of competency

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